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The manuals on a Hammond are called the Great or lower keyboard and the Swell or upper keyboard. In pipe organs, the Great keyboard was the primary playing keyboard. It typically had the most pipe ranks and stops. The Swell keyboard typically played pipes enclosed in a sound chamber with shutters that were opened and closed by the Swell or expression pedal. Other keyboards could also be found in pipe organs to play pipe ranks in other locations in the church. For example, the Choir keyboard played pipes in the choir, while the Echo keyboard played pipes installed in a distant location inside the church.

The most popular Hammonds have what are called Waterfall keys in the manuals. The keys are squared off, somewhat like a piano, but without the horizontal protruding lip on the playing surface of the key that all piano keyboards have. It is often stated reason for this design was that LaurensHammond was not a musician and he used a piano keyboard in his prototypes. But the key reason was that they were cheaper to build. The naturals have a lip underneath the key that normally resets on the up-stop felt that is fastened to the keyrail. This assures that the alignment of the naturals requires no adjustment and thus saves the labor costs to do so.

But Waterfall keys are quite a different design than the keyboards of pipe organs. Pipe organ keyboards often have a shape refered to as a Divingboard. This shape makes it easier to overhang the manuals to allow a player to play two keyboards with one hand. The Hammond "Waterfall" keys, keyrail and the ?Busbars beneath each manual made it impossible to overhand the manuals. So Hammond manuals are stepped rather than overhung.

Later, when Hammond began selling ConcertOrgans and late model SpinetOrgans, the waterfall keys are replaced with divingboard keys. However, most Jazz, Pop and Rock musicians prefer the waterfall keys on the ConsoleOrgans which makes certain playing techniques like smears and palm wipes easier to play. A diving board key has a sharply defined edge which can actually cut the hand.

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